Interval - Definition with Examples

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What is an Interval?

How are the two lines different? 

different two lines

What is the difference between the emergency flashing light of an ambulance and its headlamp?

difference between lights

The headlamps flash continuously. However, the emergency flashing lights flash at intervals.

Continuous means without any gap, whereas interval means with gaps.

Let us see what a time interval is:

Suppose you are walking from your home to your school. You walk continuously and reach school in 10 minutes. 

interval example 1

Now, while walking back home, you get tired and decide to sit for 2 minutes. You stop for 2 minutes and then again start walking towards home. So, we say you took a time interval of 2 minutes while walking back home. 

interval example 2

Surely, you would have to take more time to reach home as you took an interval.

Let us see another example to understand the interval:

When a car moves continuously on the road, it has to stop on approaching a red street light. However, if the street light is green, the car would continue moving without having to stop. 

interval example 3

Time Interval:

The time interval can be defined as the time between two events.

We can show time intervals on a timeline.

time interval

Here, the timeline shows intervals of 1 hour.

We can find the time between events using intervals.

For example, Sam started playing soccer at 4:30 pm. He finished the game at 6:00 pm. For how long did he play?

We can draw a timeline as:

time interval example

The interval from 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm is half an hour. Then, from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm is an hour. So, that makes it an hour and a half. Sam played soccer for one and a half hours.

  Fun Facts

  • The word interval is derived from Latin “Inter” meaning “between” and “vallum” meaning “space between ramparts (space between protective walls of a castle)”.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What units are used to measure the time interval?

    Units like seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, etc. are used to measure time intervals.

  • Are elapsed time and time interval the same thing?

    Yes. Both represent the difference between two times.

  • Can time intervals be in decimals?

    Yes. As it represents the difference between two times, the time interval can be whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. For example, 17 minutes, 0.5 sec, ¼ of an hour, etc. Time intervals, however, cannot be negative.

  • What is a real-life example of a time interval?

    The amount of time it takes to do groceries, to paint a wall, or to get to the playground from home, are some examples of time intervals.

Practice Problems on interval in math

Pick the correct answer
1.   While going from one number to the next on an analog clock, the hour hand covers an interval of _________.
2.   What does the interval from 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm represent?
3.   A yoga class starts at 6:00 am and ends at 8:00 am. What is the duration of the yoga class?
4.   While going from the number 5 to 6 on an analog clock, the minute hand covers an interval of _____ minutes.
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